Smackdown 8/13/2015 Review: Thank You Rollins
After the wheels nearly fell off the SummerSlam hype train last week, WWE Smackdown rolls into Portland Oregon to attempt to redeem some watchability heading into the biggest event of the summer. Week after week, myself and my Fellow Three Count colleagues have stated that the main roster is in some serious trouble. That was no more apparent than last week.
The SummerSlam card has quickly become clogged with tag team and gimmick matches. One would assume that Smackdown would be the obvious choice for hyping the second biggest pay per view of the year. While the Steven Amell feud against Stardust has been booked excellently, Taker/Lesnar, the women's triple threat, and Cesaro/Owens seem to have been left solely to WWE Raw.
WWE's main roster woes are complex, and quite frankly, numerous. With Summer Slam right around the corner Smackdown needs to seize the opportunity and break from the “cruise control” mentality that has plagued the program for some time.
Charlotte Vs Naomi
Smackdown opens a with long winded promo by way of Seth Rollins. Rollins compares himself to the Beatles among other random shit while he goes on about being the best in the world. Normally I'm a fan of anything Seth Rollins touches, however this promo, (and the series of them as a whole) are getting a bit tired. Watching Rollins talk trash against a man who is not not there to defend himself for weeks on end is incredibly distracting.
Digging into the John Cena situation for a moment will expose a key problem with the sporting portion of WWE programming, and this is a clear lack of a number one contender position. While it's true that the WWE Champion can issue a challenge to anyone he wants to fulfill his obligation to defend the belt every thirty days, the possibility of seeing Cena on top again is something that very few in the WWE Universe actually want, assuming the year long chorus of boos is to be believed.
The obviousness that this match is more about t-shirts than sport hurts the product for everyone, Including the very people buying Cena merchandise. Imagine the conversations on the schoolyard when little Johnny shows up to his first day of second grade, decked out in his orange and green John Cena shirt, as all the kids look at him and say “Ewww. You like John Cena?!” The reality of that day is not out of the question, and is likely rapidly approaching.
Eventually Neville would enter to break up the promo. He would quickly be followed by Cesaro, who would eventually be joined by Kevin Owens. Per the terms of the International Teddy Long Doctrine, a tag team match would be signed for the main event. It was a phoned in ending in a segment that ran about twice as long as it needed to.
Back from a commercial we finally get to our first match of the night, involving Charlotte and Naomi. Charlotte has obviously stumbled since her main roster debut, and the constant matches against Naomi aren't helping matters. Perhaps it's Charlotte's complacency in working with the likes of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley for the better part of a year, but Charlotte has not been turning heads the way she was in NXT.
Not to leave the impression that the match was as large of a disaster as last week's outing, but there is still something nagging at Charlotte. Hopefully WWE brass will give the two a rest, and a chance to work across the roster with different talents. For her part, Naomi showed a high level of intensity during the match, catching Charlotte with a hard kick to the chin and her signature splits pin for a long two count. Charlotte would eventually come away with the victory via a sloppy figure 8 lock.
Sunday's triple threat has a lot riding on it, far more than any women's match has for the past decade. WWE and women's wrestling are at a crossroads, and this is clearly the apex. The likes of Kelly Kelly and Nidia are long gone, and the new age is finally here. The Bella Twins appear poised to hold onto any shred of relevancy they can while the talent of Banks, Bayley and Lynch pass them by. If Team BAD and Team White Girls no show on Sunday, WWE and women's wrestling as a whole may be in deep trouble.
Roman Reigns With Dean Ambrose Vs Luke Harper With Bray Wyatt
Reigns' best work to date has come by way of the Wyatt Family, particularly Luke Harper. This speaks volumes to Harper's raw talent and gift for the sport, and supports my personal claim that he is the most underrated and underutilized talent on the roster. This makes it all the more heart breaking to see him fed to Roman Reigns.
Harper is good on the stick, and great in the ring. His promo prior to the match was excellent, and his strikes connected with Reigns in a very painful way. Harper would find himself on the receiving end of some particularly rough bumps, one involving the set up to the overused Drive-by Dropkick.
The match would have went on to win the prestigious designation of match of the night had it not been for the dusty finish by Bray Wyatt. Wyatt who had been teasing interference all night finally got involved after Reigns connected with a Superman Punch. Ambrose and Reigns would fight outside the ring before finally gaining the upper hand over the Family, sending them both back to the locker room.
Post match we would be treated to a promo from Mr. Money in the Bank, and are quickly reminded how much better life would be if someone like... oh I don't know... Luke Harper held the briefcase. Shamus goes on about his failed cash in on Raw, talks shit about Randy Orton and how he wants to be WWE champion. Spoilers: he won't succeed.
Prime Time Players Vs The New Day (Xavier Woods/Big E)
Ignoring the shock of Xavier Woods actually wrestling instead of shouting and gallivanting outside the ring, our second to last match of the night devolves into a commercial for SummerSlam quicker than the previous two matches did. Darren Young is given some time to shine during the match, as he would score huge knock downs on his opponents, and even come away with the pinfall victory via his awesome finisher. (The Sodomizer?) This wouldn't come before a bit of good old fashioned hype for the impending Fatal Four Way
As the match wore on and Big E was getting it handed to him from the likes of Young, all three New Day members found it necessary to turn tail and attempt to leave the match. As they made their way up the entrance ramp to exit, both the Lucha Dragons and Los Matadores made appearances to ensure that wouldn't happen. Woods is finally thrown back into ring for the match to come to a close.
Perhaps, had I not seen this type of interference and build hundreds of times before in the decades that I've been involved in the sport, then just maybe I'd feel some sense of excitement for the impeding match Sunday. However, much like the roster, the WWE booking manual apparently hasn't seen an update since the days of Gerald Brisco.
Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens vs Neville and Cesaro.
In a main event that likely had Kevin Dunn puking his guts out, a ring full of NXT alumni would set out to give us not only the match of the night, but perhaps of the month. This, as you likely would have guessed, would come almost squarely on the shoulders of one Swiss Superman.
Cesaro begins the affair by clutching Rollins in a hold akin to a Tilt-A-Whirl slam. Instead of finishing the maneuver, he snaps Rollins into a Stalled Suplex. After this display of his freakish strength, Neville and Cesaro would enjoy control of the match into the last break of the show.
Rollins and Owens would regain control after the break, as Neville would be isolated to his opponent's corner. Much of the drama in the middle portion of the match would come by way of Neville's close calls in tagging his partner. One in particular sticks out as a failed hot tag, something I can't remember having seen in WWE programming.
Cesaro would appear to gain the victory, as he eventually found himself in the match. Although he would lock Rollins in the Sharpshooter, Owens entered to break up the hold, himself becoming trapped in the legendary submission. Rollins would capitalize and roll up Cesaro, tights in hand for the dirty pin.
Although the show as a whole leaves little drama for the seasoned wrestling fan, this edition's main event comes as a huge surprise, anchoring an otherwise rickety ship. Cesaro proves himself time and again as a viable main event talent, and I can't wait for the day he sports that belt around his waist.
The build to SummerSlam may have been paved with worn out tapes of the Undertaker/Lesnar confrontation, but there have been some enjoyable stops along the way. While the show as a whole is largely forgettable, the broadcast is saved by the work of the future of the industry, and three and a half (sorry Neville) of the best wrestlers currently on the roster. Hopefully SummerSlam starts what will become a strong finish for the year ,as the lead in to the biggest show of the summer has been anything but remarkable.
Final Say 2.5 Tight holding pins out of 5